Boris Johnson has said he has “full confidence” in Cressida Dick as Metropolitan Police Commissioner, amid calls for her resignation over the heavy-handed policing of Saturday’s vigil to murdered Sarah Everard.
Investigations have been launched by the Metropolitan Police and HM Inspectorate of Constabulary into Saturday’s events, when women attending the vigil on Clapham Common in south London were seen being forced to the ground and handcuffed by police.
Calls for her resignation were led by Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey, while Women’s Equality Party co-founder Catherine Mayer said her position was “untenable”.
But Mr Johnson’s comments made clear she is under no immediate pressure from Downing Street to go.
Asked during a visit to Coventry if he had full confidence in the Met’s chief officer, Mr Johnson replied: “Yes, I do. And what she’s asked is … that we look at what happened on Saturday night.
“The police do have a very, very difficult job. But there’s no question that the scenes that we saw were very distressing and so it is right that Tom Winsor, the inspector of constabulary, should do a full report into it.
Mr Johnson said he was “very concerned” at the images broadcast from Saturday’s vigil.
“I think that we’ve got to recognise that the tragedy, the horrific crime that we’ve seen in the case of Sarah Everard, has triggered, has unleashed, a wave of feeling from people – from women above all – who do worry about their safety at night,” he said.
Mr Johnson said that the government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, being discussed in parliament today included measures to toughen sentences for rapists and stop the early release of serious sexual and violent offenders and toughen the law on domestic violence.
But Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the legislation did not include anything “meaningful” on protecting women and girls, while devoting considerable effort to protecting statues against damage of the kind seen when a memorial to slave trader Edward Colston was torn down in Bristol last year.
“We have got a 300-page Bill coming before Parliament, with 176 clauses of 20 schedules,” he told reporters.
“It says lots of things about statues and almost nothing about protecting women and girls, and particularly dealing with violence against women and girls.”
The Labour leader said what was needed was more support for those subjected to domestic violence, abuse and sexual offending, adding the Bill “doesn’t address the fact that sentencing for rape and stalking is too low”.
“This is a gaping hole in the legislation, Government has got its priorities wrong, it should re-think,” he added.
Asked why the beleaguered Met chief retained the PM’s confidence, Mr Johnson’s spokesman told a Westminster media briefing: “I have spoken already about the difficult job that the police have had during the pandemic and we thank them for that.
“The Met and inspectorate are rightly looking into the events of Saturday now but the Commissioner continues to have the prime minister’s full confidence.”
Asked what the prime minister made of the National Police Chiefs’ Council call for “clarity” on how forces should handle demonstrations during the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr Johnson’s spokesman said: “We’ve worked closely with the National Police Chiefs’ Council and the College of Policing to make sure the right guidance is in place and that police officers know what the rules are and how to enforce them.
“Police have engaged members of the public throughout, they’ve explained the rules, encouraged them to follow the rules and enforced them if needed.”